I have read a bunch of bad books lately. Or just mediocre ones. I'm not too excited about any of the four I'm currently reading, either. I checked my recent reviews, and of the last 17 books I've read, I have only really been impressed by one. Steinbeck knows his stuff. But I already knew that. The book 18 books ago that impressed me was Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
by Eric A. Kimmel
and Trina Schart Hyman
. But it's a Caldecott Honor Book, so there's that.I'll tell you what has impressed me book-wise lately (though it's not a book at all):
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
I saw this little charmer quite a while before it won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. It was free on the internet back then (this post was in draft mode, with the embedded video, but now that it has won the Oscar, the video is no longer embeddable). Now you can download it for $1.99. I promise you, it's worth your time and money. You can't tell from the trailer, but it's a really sweet story. Plus, it won an Oscar, so there's that.Does this mean I just need to stick to award winners?
Don't worry, I have literally hundreds of books in my house I can read. Plus, you know, a library card. So it's not about not having something great available to read, I just haven't chosen wisely lately. I'm due, though. Time to go pick.
Plugging his new book, Space Chronicles
, Neil DeGrasse Tyson
appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
, and nearly made Jon want to become an astrophysicist himself (watch the clip
, you'll want to become one, too!). Tyson is doing pretty well bringing the wonder back to science and making it friggin' awesome.Just like the great Carl Sagan.
Known as a popularizer of science, Sagan helped people want
to learn about the Universe with the same passion as Sagan himself. In Carl Sagan's words:
Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We've longed to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We're made of starstuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. The journey for each of us begins here.
As it turns out, the very thing that Carl loved most about the Universe, is also what Neil loves most, and both of them just make you want to pack a bag and head for the stars (well, them and Doctor Who
), because really, you're just going home.
The transcript of the video:
The most astounding fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth, the atoms that make up the human body are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures.
These stars, the high mass ones among them went unstable in their later years. They collapsed and then exploded scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy—guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself.
These ingredients become part of a gas cloud that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems, stars with orbiting planets, and those planets now have the ingredients for life itself.
So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that, yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that face, I look up—many people feel small because they're small and the Universe is big—but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars.
There's a level of connectivity. That's really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant. You want to feel like a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you. That's precisely what we are, just by being alive.
Thanks, Neil. Carl would be proud.
So, there I was at 4 am on the banks of the Willamette River
, just north of the Hawthorne Bridge
, all ready to watch an incredible lunar eclipse
. I was able to get 2 or 3 shots as the moon peeked in and out of the fog—but then the fog won. It thickened and covered the space-where-the-moon-should-be and never relented. I waited patiently on the Esplanade, hoping for a hole in the fog so I could capture a perfectly timed glimpse of the moon setting behind the city, but no such luck.
There were a few other intrepid eclipse-watchers and photographers, but all of them arrived after the thickening of the fog. At least I got to see a little bit.Timing is of the essence in quests such as this one. My friend John Waller of Uncage the Soul is pretty good at the timing thing. I saw some preliminary shots he and a friend nabbed during the eclipse of not only the moon in full red eclipse mode, but also with an airplane right in front of it! Timing for the win!
John's most recent epic adventure in excellent timing is chronicled below:
Japan's been on my mind. More so, I think, than other natural disasters that receive worldwide attention. This video is what made it real for me.
At first, it just looks like a bit of water in the streets. In the first few seconds, you even see someone driving away. Watch the entire video; what you see at the beginning is nothing compared to what you see at the very end. Did that first van driving away make it? I hope so.
The phrase raining cats and dogs isn't quite right when you talk about hurricanes. This hurricane season, we throw an average one onto a cloud scientist's scale to see just how much water these monster weather machines carry through the sky. NPR's Robert Krulwich and Odd Todd explain how much a hurricane weighs.
This video reminds me of the book, Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?
by Robert E. Wells in which whales are packed into jars like so many pickles, and then those jars are stacked (as tiny little elephants look on) until a ludicrously large stack of whale-jars accumulates... but it would still be eensy-weensy compared to Mount Everest.
Jarbus Agneli: Reading a newspaper, I saw a picture of birds on the electric wires. I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes (no Photoshop edit). I knew it wasn't the most original idea in the universe. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.
I sent the music to the photographer, Paulo Pinto, who I Googled on the internet. He told his editor, who told a reporter and the story ended up as an interview in the very same newspaper.
Here I've posted a short video made with the photo, the music and the score (composed by the birds).
Also check my live presentation of Birds on the Wires at TEDx São Paulo: tedxsaopaulo.com.br/jarbas-agnelli/
Music made with Logic.
Video made with After Effects.
An interview about this and other works: biginterview.org/
A brilliant project
, put together by an English teacher at a Toronto High School, resulted in this moving video. Students sing pieces of Obama's inspirational inauguration speech, and remind us, of course, of Hope. This line always gets me: "A man whose father, less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant, can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."
The East has been slammed with crazy weather recently, and while the "snowpocalypse" of 2010 has shut many doors and caused many inconveniences, it has opened many others. What better way to share moments with one's community than to play outside for a while?
This video is downright charming. My favorite part is the sign about team sports on the growing grass. Well executed, Nathan Golon and Jordan Gantz, well executed.
Taylor Mali is a brilliant slam poet. I just rediscovered this bit of his, and I know it holds true as I watch amazing teachers do what they do best every day.